The citrusy aroma and flavor of lemongrass, alongside its pest-repelling properties, make it a wonderful addition to any garden or yard. Lemongrass is an eye-catching and unique addition to any garden, so passersby or your gardening buddies are sure to be impressed. Plus, it’s not very hard to grow or particularly prone to disease or infestation. Let’s get started.
Growing Conditions for Lemongrass
Lemongrass is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of South Asia, Australia, and Africa, so it comes as no surprise that it takes its environment with a dollop of heat and a generous splash of … you guessed it, water. Lemongrass is not a fan of frosty weather, so if you live in a climate that gets cold, use a container if you plan to enjoy your lemongrass year-round. It likes moist but well-drained soil, plenty of sunlight, and high humidity levels.
What’s the most common way for a home gardener to get in on a nice crop of lemongrass? Take a few healthy stalks bought from the grocery store, and place them in a glass with about an inch of water in it. Change the water daily or every other day. In a few weeks, roots should reach one to two inches in length. At this point, plant the stalks in your garden (after all chance of frost has passed) or in a garden container.
But that’s not your only option. People have also been successful planting the stalk directly into soil, buying a started plant at a nursery, and even starting lemongrass from seed. In all cases, lemongrass needs plenty of water and a warm environment to really get going. Once the plants do get going, they will propagate on their own and begin to form large clumps of tall grass, which can eventually be harvested or simply enjoyed as a fragrant landscaping feature.
Care of Lemongrass
Because lemongrass does not do well in cold weather and because it is self-propagating, many people will find that container planting is the best option. If you are able to bring your lemongrass inside during winter months, the plant could last you multiple years. And while it’s not exactly invasive like a lot of grasses are, it can still crowd other plants’ root systems. If you live in an environment with little to no frost in the winter and if you don’t intend to plant the lemongrass near other plants, you can certainly get away with growing it in the ground.
While your soil should drain well, you also do not want to let the roots of your lemongrass get dried out. Water frequently in the spring and summer, and use a less heavy hand with the garden hose or watering can in the winter. Use a spray bottle to create humidity if you do not live in a humid climate.
Finally, lemongrass does best in a nitrogen-rich soil. There are tons of inexpensive, resourceful ways to amend your soil without chemical fertilizers. Check them out in these Gardening Channel articles on natural fertilizing methods.
Once the lemongrass plant is at least a foot tall, you can begin harvesting the leaves. Simply cut off as much of the green part of the plant as you’d like to use. Lemongrass leaves don’t dry or freeze particularly well, so it’s best to use it fresh. The tops are quite tough, but they can be steeped to flavor teas, soups, curries, and rice. You can also crush the leaves with your fingers to release their mosquito-repelling oil.
To harvest the whole stalk, you’ll want to wait until the base width is at least half an inch thick. Once it reaches that point, either cut it off just above the soil or pull it up from the base. Harvest from the outer edges of the plant so it can continue to propagate. The leaves closer to the base are more tender than leaves harvested from the top of the plant. The most commonly used part of the plant is actually its white core, which you can get to by peeling away the outer layers of the stalk. You can grate or finely chop it to use in cooking. It also freezes much better than the leaves, so you can harvest a lot of it at a time.
Common Pests and Diseases for Lemongrass
Lemongrass is not particularly prone to many diseases or pests, but a relatively common issue is “rust.” This is a fungal disease characterized by the browning, wilting, and death of stalks and the whole plant if it’s not controlled. That means as soon as you see the signs of rust, it’s time to take action. To manage the problem, remove infected parts of the plant, avoid overhead watering, and promote quick growth by providing your plant with plenty of nutrients.
Whether you’re growing lemongrass to add a fresh, out of the ordinary look to your yard or garden or to harvest it for cooking, this guide tells you what you need to know for a successful growing season. While lemongrass isn’t a typical choice, it’s no more difficult to manage than old gardening standbys. Follow these steps, and you’re sure to have a handsome crop of lemongrass in no time.
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Ruth Gulley is a writer and contributing editor for Russell Gibson Content. A native Texan, she now resides in Virginia where she enjoys homeschooling her stepson, cuddling with her clumsy cat named Bird, and watching seasons one through four of The Office on repeat.